Urgent action needed to fight ‘witch hunt’

Gary Foxcroft
Gary Foxcroft

A Lancaster organisation is calling for urgent UN action on witchcraft accusations and persecution across the world.

Gary Foxcroft, executive director of the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN), said that “many thousands” of women and children are likely to suffer horrific human rights violations each year due to the practice of accusing them of witchcraft.

Women and children are also being killed for body parts or being offered as human sacrifices, according to a report launched this week.

Gary, former director of Lancaster based charity Stepping Stones Nigerial, has called for the UN to take urgent action to curb these abuses.

He said: “Two hundred and nine horrific cases of witchcraft accusations, killings for body parts and human sacrifice were recorded on online media in 2013.

“The cases make particularly gruesome reading and are undoubtedly the tip of the iceberg of this form of abuse.

“We don’t know exactly how many people across the world have suffered due to these practices.

“But we do know that this is an emerging issue that needs more attention and constitutes a scar on the face of humanity.”

Cases were recorded in 41 countries across all continents with India, Nigeria and South Africa recording particularly high rates of abuse.

In India high rates of human sacrifice were recorded. In South Africa cases of killings of people for the use of their body parts in magic prevailed.

In Nigeria numerous cases of children being accused of witchcraft were documented.

Gary added: “WHRIN is calling for the UN to take more concrete steps to deal with this human rights catastrophe and, in particular, appeals for the UN to initiate a process of encouraging dialogue to take place between faith groups, governments and Non-Governmental Organisations so that solutions may be developed to put a stop to these horrific human rights abuses.”

Concerns around the ‘growing reality’ of children being accused of witchcraft were also raised at a recent Human Rights Council session by the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General on Violence Against Children, Martha Santos Pais, who said: “To be labelled a witch...is tantamount to being declared liable to be killed with impunity.”